by Patrick Henderson
Manoj Parmar, who runs a cricket academy in Thame, Oxfordshire, organised a cricket tour for young players to India in mid-February. This year three Swiss lads were part of the tour.
Manoj Parmar has been running similar tours to his home country for a number of years.
Manoj, an experienced ECB Level III coach, who has coached among others the current Indian Test player Cheteshwar Pujara, is an MCC member and ex-First Class Cricketer from Saurashtra in India. The ten-day tour included youth players from England and Wales, three Swiss youths, where Manoj also regularly coaches, and two ex-Basel boys who recently returned to the UK, while two of the touring party were from Falkland, Scotland where Manoj was a professional in the 1980s & 1990s.
This once in a lifetime opportunity to go on an overseas cricket tour so far afield, to India, provided these players with a unique opportunity to improve their cricket skills, technique, fitness, tactics and mental approach to the game.
It enabled them to play and practice cricket in different conditions, as well as immerse themselves in the culture of Gujarat where the team was based in the city of Rajkot.
The tour consisted of six matches (most at the International cricket ground in Rajkot), with training and practice sessions in between. The opposition included challenging opponents such as the student team of the VVP Engineering College as well as the county U16 team.
There was also an occasion for the players to coach cricket to a group of 40 local schoolchildren.
There is no doubt that all the players will have returned home technically better and mentally tougher cricketers. This was a tour that will remain with them for a lifetime.
At the same time, the tour gave all of the touring party some insight into Indian way of life in this area: the huge variation of vegetarian dishes, the hustle, bustle and incessant noise of the often unnerving traffic and of course the exhilarating experience of the ever-present tuc-tucs as they weave their way through the busy streets, the far slower rhythms and traditions of farm life, the skills and acrobatics of performing dancers, magicians and tightrope artists, the confrontation with the hugely disparate lives of those
that those that have in abundance and those that are faced with the daily fight for survival in the slums, the boundless enthusiasm of young and old for the sport cricket (but also hockey!) that is everywhere apparent, not least in the parks of Mumbai, and so much more. The 15-strong touring party all returned exhausted. Six matches on the trot is a tough call, but they were there to play cricket and learn, and that is what they did. New ties were formed, and it was immediately evident how well the team gelled. By the end they had become a team, and the fervent wish expressed by so many was to return again next year.